TAFE student woolclasser awarded with ‘excellence’

Headshot of Bob Garnant
Bob GarnantCountryman
Mt Barker superfine woolgrower Stefanie Alo at her Hamburg Grazing woolshed proudly displaying her fleeces and certificate IV woolclassing awards.
Camera IconMt Barker superfine woolgrower Stefanie Alo at her Hamburg Grazing woolshed proudly displaying her fleeces and certificate IV woolclassing awards. Credit: Bob Garnant/Countryman

Great Southern superfine woolgrower Stefanie Alo has received a certificate IV in woolclassing with distinctions after making her first appearance inside a woolshed only four years prior.

Upon finishing her woolclassing course at South Regional TAFE in Narrogin in 2021, she was named student of the year and recognised with a certificate of excellence.

Ms Alo, who is of German heritage, previously worked as a social therapist in a mental health unit in a female prison in Switzerland.

Taking up a rousing job while travelling in WA, she felt a real connection to the amazing product of wool.

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“Watching a sheep being shorn for the first time and working with incredible fascinating people, while feeling the soreness of the hard work, I felt the whole vibe which got me pretty much straight away,” she said.

“The teamwork and lighting and smell of the shed just had me wanting to learn more.”

Ms Alo considered her well-paid and safe job back in Switzerland, but decided to stay in WA and learn more about woolhandling and wool growing.

She started working with the Tambellup shearing team, where she met her partner Jaydan Smith, who was shearing for Tiny’s Shearing Services before joining Boyle Shearing Contractors.

“Whilst I worked as a roustabout, I got more and more interested in it and Jaydan and I started to make plans to run our own sheep, it only made sense to learn how to class wool,” Ms Alo said.

Taking up the woolclassing course in 2021, she completed six months of online training from home before a three-week attendance at the South Regional TAFE Narrogin campus followed by a 50-bale clip assignment in a woolshed.

The final part of the course was a shed assessment with woolclassing lecturer Owen Snook.

“I enjoyed both the theory and practical parts of the well organised course and learned a lot,” Ms Alo said.

South Regional TAFE lecturer Rob Carter said woolclassing students learn how to prepare wool based on its characteristics.

“They classify differing wool types and document wool clips plus appraise wool using industry descriptions,” he said.

“This includes their ability to determine wool classing strategies, wool quality assurance procedures, shed preparation, staff supervision and provide first aid and work health and safety requirements.”

Mr Carter said the benefits of the training enabled the certified students to apply for registration with the Australian Wool Exchange to class woolclips anywhere in Australia.

“Registered woolclassers are in very high demand right across Australia,” he said.

Mr Carter said Ms Alo’s student of the year award, given each year from every South Regional TAFE campus, was part of a selection process by a panel consisting of head lecturers from the campus study area disciplines, the campus coordinator and the campus regional manager.

“The woolclassing course is only available at the Narrogin campus,” he said.

Ms Alo now takes pride of place classing superfine wool at the 40 hectare farm named Hambach Grazing just on the outskirts of Mt Barker.

“Jaydan and I dreamed of owning our own farm and breeding quality superfine wool,” she said.

“After finding a bank that would work with us, in November 2019, we moved in to our farm with not a cent left in our pockets - we had to decide between purchasing a kitchen or our first sheep.

“We decided to go with the sheep and we bought 200 superfine breeding ewes from Andrew Bradshaw in Tambellup.”

The couple’s first sheep feeder was a wheelie bin and rolling out hay bales by hand, after a day of shearing and rousing.

“Three years later, we are running 1100 breeding ewes using rams from Ron Niven’s The Grange stud on our home block and two lease blocks and agistments.” Ms Alo said.

“This year’s shearing was our first shearing with a proper wool press.”

Ms Alo said their woolclip was around 15 micron.

“We are trying to slowly increase our wool cut and phasing out mulesing,” she said.

“Our big goal is to grow our sheep and wool enterprise using genetic selections.

“We both are super passionate about sheep science and new farm technologies and love to combine those with traditional farm knowledge.”

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